Golf Digest 2017-18 Rankings - Food for Thought: What if they just ranked courses by Shot Values?


Golf Digest published its latest list of "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses". There wasn't a lot of movement in the rankings from last time, but Pine Valley muscled its way back into the top spot ahead of Augusta National.

Most of the criticism of the Golf Digest rankings are that it rewards well-conditioned, difficult courses. Some of this may be due to the nature of its 1,100 person ratings panel, who tend to be better players. More than likely, it's a function of its formula for defining greatness along some fixed weights (2x for Shot Values, and 1x each for Resistance to Scoring, Design Variety, Memorability, Aesthetics, Conditioning and Ambience. You can see the specific definitions here:

Shot Values is defined as "How well do the holes pose a variety of risks and rewards and equally test length, accuracy and finesse?". As noted, it's worth twice as much as the other categories so is obviously viewed as the most important characteristic. But what if it were the only category for ranking golf courses? Could Shot Values alone produce a better list, in your opinion? Since Shot Values is difficult to define and even more difficult to quantify, might it be akin to a raters overall view of the course quality anyways (the correlation between Shot Values and all of the other categories combined is 93.5%)?

The list below shows that a Shot Values only approach would bring Hazeltine National, Harbour Town, Pasatiempo, Streamsong Red, Chambers Bay, Galloway National, The Course at Yale (up from 177 to 90!), Colorado Golf Club, Cal Club and Shoal Creek into the top 100 at the expense of Monterey Peninsula Shore, Laurel Valley, Flint Hills National, Hudson National, The Course at Black Rock, The Preserve, Double Eagle, Mayacama, Diamond Creek and The Quarry at La Quinta (down from 83 to 144).

It's not perfect, but it seems to be heading in the right direction. Perhaps Design Variety and Memorability or Ambience need to play a small role as well. But here's the Shot Value-only list as food for thought. More to come as we dig deeper into the numbers.

Update: this Google Sheets tool allows you to set your own category weights and produce a customized top 100/200 list.

Golf Digest RankShot Value RankCourseSV Score
11Pine Valley8.9142
22Augusta National8.7013
43Shinnecock Hills8.6473
65Merion East8.4932
36Cypress Point8.4265
107Winged Foot8.3128
79Pebble Beach8.2659
910Sand Hills8.2595
1511Muirfield Village8.1499
1213Crystal Downs8.1372
1714Oakland Hills - South8.1108
2015Oak Hill - East8.1025
1116Fishers Island Club8.1020
3817Bethpage Black8.0853
3019Pinehurst - No 28.0590
1620The Country Club8.0561
2921Prairie Dunes8.0543
2123The Ocean Course8.0427
1924Friars Head8.0426
2325LACC - North8.0305
3526Southern Hills8.0252
2227Whistling Straits - Straits8.0129
1828Pacific Dunes7.9932
3129Olympic Club - Lake7.9927
2530Wade Hampton7.9257
4831Medinah - No 37.9115
3432The Golf Club7.9009
3233The Honors Course7.8971
5834Oak Tree7.8774
4536Butler National7.8503
2837Gozzer Ranch7.8439
4338Victoria National7.8333
4439Erin Hills7.8299
3941Baltusrol - Lower7.8256
2642Shadow Creek7.8253
4943Spyglass Hill7.8201
3744San Francisco7.8124
6045Pete Dye7.8091
5146TPC Sawgrass - Players7.8058
4047Pikewood National7.7849
2748The Alotian Club7.7624
8949Inverness Club7.7609
3651Bandon Dunes7.7463
5652Old Sandwich7.7411
4653Garden City7.7376
7954Olympia Fields7.7358
4256Castle Pines7.7249
5957Dallas National7.7170
6260Winged Foot - East7.7079
6162Baltusrol - Upper7.6989
5564Whispering Pines7.6897
7566Congressional - Blue7.6786
4768Old MacDonald7.6607
6470Somerset Hills7.6541
8271Boston GC7.6441
7672Quaker Ridge7.6420
9473Crooked Stick7.6390
10774Hazeltine National7.6375
12775Harbour Town7.6307
8777Yeamans Hall7.6105
7078Bandon Trails7.6076
7379Cherry Hills7.5943
6981Spring Hill7.5718
10284Streamsong (Red)7.5605
9185Essex Country Club7.5597
8086Valley Club of Montecito7.5573
12987Chambers Bay7.5535
9288Blackwolf Run - River7.5515
11789Galloway National7.5400
17790The Course at Yale7.5353
10091Eagle Point7.5352
11192Colorado Golf Club7.5352
11093Cal Club7.5324
10694Shoal Creek7.5309
6797Kittansett Club7.5205
9698Calusa Pines7.5161
8899Rich Harvest7.5156
68100Arcadia Bluffs7.5137
65101MPCC - Shore7.5124
95102Laurel Valley7.5115
97108Flint Hills National7.4969
85112Hudson National7.4893
84113Black Rock7.4872
93123The Preserve7.4410
86126Double Eagle7.4398
90137Diamond Creek7.3913
83144Quarry at La Quinta7.3689


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